The St. Louis Blues took down the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night 3-2 at the United Center, and while it took some extra time, it was no less exciting a finish. TJ Oshie scored the lone goal in a shoot-out to give the Blues the extra point while Jaroslav Halak stoned Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to preserve the win. David Backes and Alexander Steen each scored their 5th goals of the season for St. Louis while Jay Bouwmeester added 2 assists.
The ‘Hawks took the first lead Thursday at 7:42 of the opening frame on a wrist-shot from Brandon Pirri, his first of the season and first NHL goal. Chicago had the Blues hemmed in their own zone fairly often in the 1st period but St. Louis maintained their calm and really played a good game defensively, especially in the 2nd and 3rd. Backes, playing in his 500th career NHL game, was in the right place at the right time once again, and tipped in a Bouwmeester blast for a power-play goal to tie things up at 10:14 of the 1st, continuing their hot special teams play. The Blues rediscovered their penalty killing prowess as well. Chicago finished the game 0-for-4 with the man-advantage.
Chicago regained the lead late in the 2nd on a slapper by Marian Hossa, who played like a beast the entire game Thursday night, but the Blues again stormed right back and tied it up, this time with Steen tipping in the Bouwmeester shot from out high.
Neither team scored in the final 20 minutes of regulation, or in the extra 5 of overtime, forcing the shoot-out. Both Halak and Corey Crawford made very good saves and the Blues turned up the heat on the Blackhawks in the offensive zone. Once again, Vladi Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz were buzzing all over the ice, showing speed and strength on the puck and giving Blues fans even more to be excited about for the future of this team.
The Blues looked to be firing on all cylinders Thursday night. They played tight defense in their own zone after a shaky start, making crisp, quick outlet passes to move the puck up ice. Roman Polak and Jordan Leopold both played very strong games. St. Louis forwards did an excellent job back-checking and clogging up the neutral zone and limiting the odd-man chances Chicago had, and creating a few of their own. Patrik Berglund looked like he had a little something extra in his step. Magnus Paajarvi, in the lineup for the first time as a Blue, played sparingly but looked solid. He’s a bigger guy and I think can play bigger, but was probably shaking off some rust and nerves. He’ll earn more playing time, regardless of the length of Maxim Lapierre’s suspension.
As good a game as it was, from start to finish, the obvious highlight came on Oshie’s lone shoot-out goal. It was a stunning display of stick and puck control, and Crawford simply had no chance on the shot. TJ gave him a little forehand-backhand deke before roofing the puck over the sprawling netminder.
The quality of that goal, and the Blues ability to make passes up the ice, through the neutral zone, and carrying the puck into the offensive zone Thursday night really sheds some light on just how talented this team really is.
St. Louis plays tonight in Winnipeg, and with the back-to-back games, we’ll see Brian Elliott start in goal for the Blues, and may even see Adam Cracknell and Ian Cole finally get some ice time. Coach Hitchcock has said he wants and needs those guys to get playing time, to feel part of the team, and this is a prime opportunity to get them in. The Jets, newly appointed to the Western Conference, are coming off a shut-out loss on Tuesday night. This will be only the second meeting in Winnipeg between the teams since the Jets relocated to there from Atlanta in 2011. Evander Kane, arguably the Jets best player, is day-to-day with an abdominal injury.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!
Topics: Alexander Steen, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, David Backes, Evander Kane, Jaden Schwartz, Jaroslav Halak, Jay Bouwmeester, Jonathan Toews, Maxim Lapierre, NHL, Shootout, St. Louis Blues, TJ Oshie, United Center, Winnipeg Jets